Happy Fornicalia!

Oven at Pompeii. Image: Wikipedia.

Oven at Pompeii. Image: Wikipedia.

Today (or roundabouts) the ancient Romans celebrated the festival of Fornicalia in tribute to Fornax, the goddess of the hearth and baking. And, yes indeed, it’s where we get the word “fornicate” — for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. It’s either because prostitutes used to operate out of bread oven-shaped basements in Rome, or because the “bun in the oven” euphemism is a very old one.

I’m celebrating Fornicalia by reading a book by Jeffrey Hamelman Bread:A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes that Mark Stambler, a gifted baker in my neighborhood, introduced me to recently. I’ll review the book in length later once I master the recipes. Until that time, Kelly will be hearing the good old fashioned Anglo-Saxon euphemism for “fornicate” coming out of the kitchen as I  battle with my proofing issues.So, happy Fornicalia! Go warm up your oven and bake something.

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  1. Prostitutes plied their trade in the cover of arches (street corner equivalent? or in the doorways) and the bread oven had an arch. I love words!


    I have always been told that “Fornaca” means “something to do with an oven”. Indeed it does! How awesome!

    Thank you for contributing to my family’s history. I’m absolutely beside myself with delight right now. We will have to start a new … old … new! tradition.

  3. hmm… and the result of fornication is often “a bun in the oven.” and we’re back to baking again.

  4. Pingback: Fornacalia, Fornax and burnt spelt | Bread, Cakes And Ale

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